Sunday, 21 May 2017

Discussion: Why Do I Find it Difficult to Call Myself a Diverse Book Blogger?

Discussion: Why Do I Find it Difficult to Call Myself a Diverse Book Blogger?

As you may have noticed from some of my previous reviews on the subject, I have a mental illness - anxiety. In general, I have no problem admitting it, no problem talking about it. Specific to book blogging, I have no problem reviewing books with characters who have anxiety and discussing the representation and how I relate (or not - I've yet to read a book featuring a character who has anxiety that I thought had bad rep, but I've not always related to certain specifics of a characters mental illness; not everyone who has anxiety - or any mental illness - experiences it in exactly the same way).

But what I do have a problem with is calling myself a diverse* book blogger. Technically speaking, I am a diverse book blogger; I am a book blogger who is part of a marginalised group. However, I am very much aware of my privilege in all other areas of my life, I kind of feel like being white, straight, cis, non-disabled**, and an athiest outweighs having anxiety. I am so privileged, it feels kind of wrong to call myself a diverse book blogger.

I saw my doctor, I was on anti-depressants, I had CBT, and I got better. I had a mild relapse, but I'm fine again. It's almost like I don't have anxiety at all. But I do. And (another) relapse isn't just possible, it's probable. There's also a part of me that feels calling myself a diverse book blogger is probably helpful; helpful to readers reading my reviews to know that, when it comes to me reviewing books with characters who feature anxiety, I can discuss represention with some authority - as I find it helpful when reviews from book bloggers of other marginalised groups. And, for the same reasons, helpful to publicists if they're trying to get books to bloggers who are from the same marginalised group/s as the characters featured.

So yes, I am a diverse book blogger, and I should probably start calling myself one. But to do so does make me feel that I'm claiming space that doesn't belong to me. And I can't work out why, exactly, I feel so bad about it. Yes, I am privileged in many other ways, and I can acknowledge that - but I can also acknowledge having a mental illness without any difficulty. Why do I find it so difficult to call myself what I am? A diverse book blogger.

*I do feel the wording isn't particularly great here. I am not a "diverse" person. I have a mental illness, and therefore I'm from a marginalised group, but I'm not "diverse". I think it would be more accurate to say "marginalised book blogger". But it's only a small quibble, and as it's linked to the fact that we need books featuring characters of various marginalistions - or diverse books - I'll use it.

**I know some people consider mental illness a disability, but there are also those who don't. I am one of the latter. I do not feel comfortable calling myself disabled, to do so would feel like encroachment.

Have any other book bloggers experienced difficulty in considering/calling themselves a diverse book blogger due to privilege? I'm going to assume not. Because if someone else was to have this conversation with me, I would vehemtly tell them of course they are. I think it's just me, my problem. But maybe not? If you have had trouble calling yourself a diverse book blogger, why?

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  1. I feel this way too a lot of the time. I mean, in the sense of the word, diverse usually just refers to anyone who isn't the default, even though the actual word shouldn't refer to an specific group of people. But anyway, the way we use it, it would seem like it would include me, a blogger from Ecuador. But I just don't feel like I should label myself that way. Because I, like you, have a lot of privilege. I'm white, able-bodied, and I LIVE in Ecuador, and therefore, have never experienced direct discrimination from being latina.

    So, I don't know if we fit in the 'diverse blogger' label, but I do know we're diverse, if that makes sense.

  2. I completely get where you're coming from. I also have anxiety but I still wouldn't consider myself a 'diverse' book blogger. I'm very privileged in the other aspects of my life so I feel kind of a fraud to call myself diverse if you get where i'm coming from...I feel like we probably shouldn't be afraid of calling ourselves diverse though, because I mean, we are in a marginalised group at the end of the day, but I'm always scared that i'll offend other people. I don't know, it's a strange one 😂 ! But yeah, I completely get where you're coming from!

  3. I guess I feel the same way. Technically I *am* a diverse book blogger since I have a chronic illness. But I've never actually considered myself or called myself a diverse book blogger. Like you, I'm straight, white, and cis. But then, I guess, maybe the hesitancy of those of us with disabilities and mental illnesses to call ourselves diverse book bloggers has more to do with society than ourselves. Like, (I'm going to include mental illness under disability for purpose of this comment) disability has only recently, it seems, started being included under the diversity umbrella, started being talked about, started being recognized as something that should be talked about, etc. So maybe we've kind of absorbed this idea that disability doesn't even "count" as a marginalization.

  4. I do get what you mean! I don't think it should have to matter how you want to categorise yourself though! I mean, I guess in a way anxiety is really common? A lot of us book bloggers (meeee too) have it and because so many of us have it/relate I guess it doesn't feel so uncommon? That's how I tend to feel about it TBH because I wouldn't consider myself a diverse book blogger either, despite having a diagnosed anxiety disorder. Although a teeny tiny part of me wonders if this is also our anxiety speaking?!? Like anxiety often tells us we're just "faking it" or I do worry that my brain is telling me my experiences aren't anything worth speaking about, when that can be the opposite of true! So it's a hard one and I think everyone can decide on it for themselves. *nods*

    I do firmly think everyone's experiences and blogs and voices are important however! Your blog and opinions are just as valid as anyone else's, Jo, and I love reading it. *passes you cake*

  5. Diversity can be defined in so many ways. But I agree that there are certainly degrees to which a marginalized group is treated poorly and this makes some groups seem less "diverse" than others.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  6. I think it depends on the context and the definition of "diverse" you're using. Which is a total non-answer, but I think it's true. If you define diverse as anyone who is not "white/straight/cis, etc.," you'll get one answer. If you define it differently or start looking at the commonalities and differences within a specific context (e.g., within a lot of public universities, conservatives might be the minority and thus the "diverse" element offering a different perspective), you might get another. Interesting thoughts and questions!

  7. I didn't even know that calling oneself a "diverse" book blogger was a thing! I suppose I am one - but I doubt I'd ever refer to myself as such. I don't think you have to identify (on the internet) with every group you're a part of - that would take a lot of time ... unless you want to of course.

    Tanya Patrice